ORLANDO — A couple of years ago, general manager Chris Grier declared an end to the dysfunction with the Dolphins.
Tuesday morning, coach Adam Gase declared that the leaders in his locker room won’t put up with the BS that occurred in the past, although Gase admitted he’s still uncertain who all those leaders are.
Tuesday afternoon, it was time for Mike Tannenbaum, executive vice president of football operations, to lay his cards on the table regarding where the Dolphins are headed. His answer was all over the board, ranging from players young and old, coming and going, what has been accomplished and what remains on the to-do list.
“But with the changes we’ve made, we feel good about … we feel like we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
Tannenbaum mentioned young players “we feel will take the next step this fall — that’s something you can’t really see right now.”
There’s a lot about these Dolphins that’s tough to see right now, starting with the “right direction” part. If you’re squinting, you’re not alone. Shortly before Tannenbaum spoke, ESPN published its power rankings, listing the Dolphins 32nd in a 32-team league.
Yes, they must look up to see even the Cleveland Browns, coming off an 0-16 season.
Tannenbaum began by saying, “Our plan remains the same: to put a competitive product on the field each and every year,” and Gase said he prefers the roster he has now to the one he inherited, which together avoids telling the fan base this team is in rebuilding mode.
We’ll give them that the changes to the offensive line could — could — represent overall improvement. We’ll give them that Rams defensive end Robert Quinn should be a nice pickup.
And then we’ll give them a reality check.
Do you realize that except for safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Cameron Wake, every Dolphin who has been recently honored for on-field performance is gone? You went to the Pro Bowl? Hope you booked a one-way ticket. Team MVP? Bye-bye. The team’s Ed Block Courage Award or Pro Football Focus’ special teams player of the year? See ya.
“To have sustainability in our system, you have to correctly evaluate your own,” Tannenbaum said.
The Dolphins apparently concluded their players weren’t cutting it in performance or value or both — and these were their best players. That’s about as unsettling as looking at the standings and seeing 6-10 next to your name.
But the Dolphins didn’t go all-in on youth. Running back Frank Gore is 35 — a young 35, to be fair, but still 35. Receiver Danny Amendola, guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore are all 30 to 32. Plus, the Dolphins don’t have wiggle room under the salary cap. They haven’t stockpiled draft picks. Where there were once exclamation points, there are now question marks.
Their hopes are hanging by the thread, personified by Ryan Tannehill’s knee and DeVante Park’s hamstrings. They’re hinging on younger players blossoming into seasoned pros, not the least of which requires Laremy Tunsil growing into the type of left tackle the Dolphins expected him to be last year. But they shouldn’t grow so much that they warrant such fat, second NFL contracts that price themselves out of Miami, as Jarvis Landry did.
“We’re going to try to keep as many of our own as we can,” Tannenbaum said. “We’ve done that recently with Reshad Jones, Ryan Tannehill, and we’re going to keep trying to do that when it’s appropriate.”
Hearing this, owner Stephen Ross added, “You always want to keep your own.”
Both of those quotes may sound familiar, but it’s important to note they were both said Tuesday, in the wake of the Landry trade.
None of the three other teams in the AFC East are wading through such murky waters. We know what the Bills’ vision is. They’re hoarding draft picks, with six in the top 100, and itching to move up from No. 12 to nab a quarterback, which ought to concern the No. 11 Dolphins.
The Jets also are addressing quarterback needs, including nabbing former Pro Bowl selection Teddy Bridgewater to a still-growing stash of passers. We know what the Jets’ vision is.
The Patriots lost more key talent than usual, including left tackle Nate Solder and Amendola to the Dolphins. But nobody bothers wondering what the Patriots’ vision is.
Knowing that the departing talent is bound to cause unrest among the fan base, Tannenbaum said, “There were some guys that played for us, contributed, and we wish them sell. They were notable names and you know who they are.
“And with that said, we felt like that created a lot of opportunities and we feel like we’ve increased the depth and the competition at receiver, at offensive line. We added a few other pieces and there’s still a lot more work to be done.”
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